Obsession with Choice

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We face an endless string of choices, which leads us to feel anxiety, guilt and pangs of inadequacy that we are perhaps making the wrong ones. But philosopher Renata Salecl asks: Could individual choices be distracting us from something bigger—our power as social thinkers? A bold call for us to stop taking personal choice so seriously and focus on the choices we’re making collectively.

Renata Salecl

Why are we the way we are, as individuals and as larger societies? In her relentless effort to answer this question, theorist Renata Salecl mines law, sociology, criminology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis to arrive at some unsettling conclusions. Salecl—who researches and teaches at universities in her native Slovenia, in New York, and in London—argues that the modern, capitalism-driven imperative to become masters of our own lives leads to personal and social paralysis. We are obsessed with the impossible ideal of perfection and with others’ regard for us to a point that's politically de-mobilizing: obsessed with the idea of personal betterment, we ignore social change. Constant anxiety, kept alive in more-or-less conscious ways by the political system and by the media, further numbs our social criticism. Many people opt to tune out and live in denial. These themes form the core of Salecl's most recent books, The Tyranny of Choice and On Anxiety.

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